16 Apr 2011

Croatian military leaders convicted of war crimes

8:00 am on 16 April 2011

Two former Croatian military leaders have been convicted of war crimes against Serbs at the end of the Croatian war in 1995, following a trial at The Hague.

Judges convicted Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac of various crimes including murder, persecution and plundering private property, the BBC reports.

Gotovina was given 24 years in jail, while Markac was jailed for 18 years.

The International Criminal Court cleared another defendant, Ivan Cermak, of all the accusations.

The men are regarded as heroes by many in Croatia.

The Croatian government condemned the judgement but Serbia welcomed the verdict.

The court infuriated Zagreb by backing the prosecution claim of a "joint criminal enterprise" with late Croatian president Franjo Tudjman, aimed at driving Croatian Serbs out of their "ancestral homelands" in the western Krajina region, AFP reports.

The prosecution said 324 Serbs were killed and close to 90,000 Serbs forcibly displaced with the clear intention that they never return, after an offensive led by Gotovina and dubbed Operation Storm that recaptured Krajina from Serb rebels in 1995.